Become A Christian And Make Your Life…Harder?
Becoming a follower of Christ is an amazing experience. It can lead to joy you never thought possible. And peace that stands defiantly against your life’s difficulties. You feel six inches taller because the weight of all that unforgiven sin you’re been carrying falls off your shoulders. In many ways, it’s like Dorothy stepping out of her black and white house into Oz’s explosion of color.
But brace yourself because it’s not all going to be tea and crumpets for you. I’ve heard it said by plenty of new believers a few months into their Christian journey, “Man, this is hard!”
If you look closely at what Jesus taught his disciples about living as his disciple, you might be taken back by the difficulties he warned them were coming. Study Matthew 10 – which deals with a number of the external threats they would face – e.g. hatred and persecution. Or Luke 9 – which deals with the internal threats they would have to overcome – e.g. their old, ugly habits and attitudes (like arrogance,vss.46-48; divisiveness, vss.49-50; or judgmentalism, vss.51-56).
It’s the internal threat of our sin that I think catches most new Christians off guard. The forgiveness Jesus grants us on Day 1 of our faith fills us with such euphoria, that the idea of returning to our sin seems unthinkable. But eventually the honeymoon fades, and soon we find those nasty sins back on the doorstep of our hearts saying, “Little pig, little pig…”
What gives? There are three big reasons why becoming a Christian can actually lead to more frustration than less.
When you accept Christ’s offer of forgiveness and become his follower, you bring all your defects, sins and bad habits into the kingdom of God with you.
This is the part of the Christian faith that I think a lot of Christians get wrong. We assume that the simple act of becoming a Christian and attending to my Christian duties is sufficient to heal our wounds.
But if a grumbler accepts Christ, they’ll still find the weather too hot or too cold the next morning. If I am lazy when I accept Christ, I’ll still find it tedious learning how to pick up my Bible and regularly read it.
Those things are all forgiven, but now Jesus has to tear them down, uproot them, and rebuild you from the inside out by teaching you a new way to live. Sin not only has to be repented of, but also has to be unlearned.
Which leads to a second reason why new believers often experience an uptick in frustration.
Only when you become a Christian do you become aware of the full depth of your sin.
When you weren’t a Christian, you were basically blind to your defects, and not all that bothered by them, even though they were making a colossal mess of your life and relationships. Now that you’re following Jesus, you are vividly aware of them, because the Holy Spirit of Jesus within you is starting to call attention to them.
If you’ve ever begun a “small” remodeling project you know what invariably happens. I went to put in new lights above our kitchen sink awhile back. But then my wife pointed out a little leak coming from the sink faucet. Why not replace the faucet while I was at it? With those two improvements made, suddenly the dinginess of the kitchen walls became obvious. Time for a fresh coat of paint. Which then called attention to the handles on the cupboard from like the stone ages. Then Holy home improvement Batman! just look in the dining room – that floor cannot mock us another day!
The same thing happens when you welcome Jesus into your heart. You think that you had those one or two big, outward sins that brought you running to the Cross, but other than that you were in pretty good shape.
Then you started reading your Bible and going to church. Suddenly, you’re seeing things you never saw before. That behind each outward sin are inward attitudes propping it up – pride or envy or fear – the termites and mold of our sin.
Which leads to the third reason why becoming a Christian can make things more difficult than less so.
The transformation of my life will require a long and challenging journey.
Make no mistake, Jesus will change you, and bring you to a place of freedom like you’ve never known before. But this will not be overnight. And it will require real work on your part. The Bible compares it to:
- Carrying a cross daily. (Luke 9:23)
- Being yoked. (Matthew 11:29-30)
- Being trained in a gym. (1 Timothy 4:7)
- Being pruned. (John 15:2)
- Dying. (1 Cor.15:31; Colossians 3:5)
To be a disciple of Jesus means you now have to allow Jesus to discipline you.
There is good news here though. None of this journey you take alone. Jesus is deeply invested in making you like himself, and promises to personally be with you to oversee your progress, through both his Spirit and His people.
And another thing – you’re playing with house money. You’re already “in”. Your faith in Christ has made you part of God’s family. Your progress or lack of progress won’t change that.
Why bother taking the journey then? Because you’ll be giving Jesus the biggest Thank You possible for his sacrifice for you. And you’ll be giving yourself the gift of a much better life.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. In addition to his ministry website, his blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”.